Sheffield United: Boss "won't hesitate" to throw this youngster in against Blackburn Rovers if stars are ruled-out

Sheffield United’s Femi Seriki and other graduates of Bramall Lane’s development programme have been told Paul Heckingbottom will “not hesitate” to throw them into the thick of a Championship promotion battle.

Monday, 21st February 2022, 5:00 pm

With Jayden Bogle set to miss the rest of the season and fellow wing-back George Baldock receiving treatment on a knee injury sustained during the 4-0 win over Swansea City, Seriki could find himself being drafted into the squad which faces Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday in a pivotal encounter at the top of the table.

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If he does feature, it would be a remarkable turnaround in fortune for the teenager after his torrid experience on loan with United’s sister club. Three months after making his Premier League debut during a game against Newcastle, he was dispatched to Belgium to continue his development but played only six minutes of football as his new team’s campaign descended into chaos.

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Asked if Seriki will come into contention for the meeting with Tony Mowbray’s third placed side, Heckingbottom told The Star: “One hundred percent. These lads, Femi included, will never get a better opportunity because they know I will put them in if they are good enough. I will not hesitate to put them in if they show that.

“I’m not going to do it just for the sake of playing one of the young lads. But we want that natural pathway, through from the academy and into the first team, to be there.”

Sheffield United youngster Femi Seriki: Darren Staples / Sportimage

Heckingbottom served as United’s under-23’s coach before, having spent a period in caretaker charge last term, being appointed on a permanent basis in November. Responsible for selecting Seriki at St James’ Park, the 44-year-old has lifted United from 16th to sixth in the table after winning eight of his 13 matches at the helm in all competitions.

“We’re giving some of these lads the experience of working with us, but it’s a big jump,” Heckingbottom continued, referring to the step-up to senior level. “And that’s a credit to the first team boys, because of how they’ve been performing - not just in games but on a day to day basis.

“If they’re doing their jobs right, which they are, then it shouldn’t be easy.”

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Darren Staples / Sportimage